Children of WWP veterans head back to school with stuffed bookbags

By Nick Blank Staff Writer
Posted 8/7/19

JACKSONVILLE – More than 60 families convened at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens despite the downpour Friday to collect 125 backpacks stuffed with school supplies.

Volunteers methodically …

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Children of WWP veterans head back to school with stuffed bookbags

Posted

JACKSONVILLE – More than 60 families convened at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens despite the downpour Friday to collect 125 backpacks stuffed with school supplies.

Volunteers methodically filled about 400 backpacks, going from crate to crate. The other backpacks are set for students in Orlando, Tampa and Pensacola. Wounded Warrior Project Outreach Specialist Kalen Schou said zoo was the venue because it engaged families.

“We really just had (volunteers) grab a backpack and walk down the line because everything was in order,” Schou said. “They’d fill up their bag and start on a new one.”

TD Bank Commercial Relations Manager George Danforth, a retired Marine, brought seven employees to assist. He worked up a sweat for a good cause.

“To just give our kids the basic essentials they need for school is excellent,” Danforth said. “We’re big fans of our veterans and a lot of us are veterans.”

There are 500 WWP veterans in the greater Jacksonville area, Schou said. The cost of school supplies is rising, which impacts local veterans.

“A lot of our warriors have multiple children and those costs add up,” Schou said. “We hope we can alleviate some of those costs and empower them the rest of the year.”

Families arrived an hour later. Green Cove Springs resident Louis Rios, his wife Diane, and their children listened to Schou’s instructions.

Louis Rios has been involved with Wounded Warrior Project for six years. He had depression and PTSD, though WWP aided him during his time of need.

“They took me out of my shell and told me it was OK to get out of my comfort zone,” Rios said. “I remember walking into the office for the first time. I was sweating bullets. My anxiety was through the roof. They came up and guided me, got me some water and told me about the programs.”

Orange Park resident Toya Brewer also brought her four children. She’s spent two years with the program. Her children were rummaging through their haul.

WWP was invaluable for transition to civilian life, she said.

“They have so many resources. They’re able to provide and help the different personnel,” Brewer said. “You go to events and they remember you.”

Notebooks, binders, markers, pencils, pens and crayons were among the items distributed.

“These are all the things you need to start the school year,” WWP spokesman Rob Louis said. “It’s a little touch to start the school year off on the right foot.”

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